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India: Kin of Kashmir Unrest Victims Demand Justice

Amin Masoodi
Srinagar, India
2017-01-18
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Children walk past Indian security personnel amid tensions between Kashmiri protesters and police, in Srinagar, Dec. 30, 2016.
Children walk past Indian security personnel amid tensions between Kashmiri protesters and police, in Srinagar, Dec. 30, 2016.
AFP

Relatives of people killed during recent unrest in Indian Kashmir on Wednesday rejected the government’s compensatory offer of cash and jobs, and demanded stern action against security personnel involved in the deaths of loved ones.

At least 100 civilians were killed and more than 10,000 injured in clashes between security forces and anti-India protesters in the disputed Himalayan region following the killing of a separatist leader in July.

Last week, the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) state government announced compensation packages of 500,000 rupees (U.S. $7,344) and jobs for immediate family members of each person who died during the clashes.

“If Indian forces had killed my son in self defense, as they claim, the government would not have announced any such compensation. The announcement of cash and jobs for us has vindicated our stand that our wards were killed in cold blood,” Ghulam Mohammad Malik, a Kupwara district resident, told BenarNews.

Malik’s 32-year-old son, Showkat Ahmad Malik, was killed by police on July 16.

“My son was the only earning member of the family. He used to run a small construction unit. He never participated in any street protest. He was going about his business as usual when police personnel deployed in our village fired at him, killing him on the spot,” Malik said, adding that despite identifying the officer who shot his son, no action was taken.

“Does the government believe that they can compensate our loss with cash? No amount of cash can fill the void. The only compensation we want is stern punishment for each and every erring policeman,” Malik said.

Three separatists killed

Muslim-majority Kashmir, which is claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan, has been in the midst of a separatist insurgency that has killed more than 70,000 people since the late 1980s.

The latest cycle of violence that lasted nearly five months erupted after Indian security forces gunned down Burhan Wani, 21, the poster boy of the region’s biggest separatist faction Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), on July 8. HM has been fighting for freedom from Indian rule for over two decades.

On Monday, security forces gunned down three suspected HM members during a 14-hour gun fight in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district, raising fears of fresh protests in the valley.

The slain men were identified as Adil Ahmad Reshi, 25, Abid Ahmad Sheikh, 22, and Masood Ahmad Shah, 30, police said.

Government orders probe

J&K Chief Minister Mebooba Mufti, while announcing cash and jobs for victims, said her government would form a special panel to determine if security personnel used excessive force to deal with protesters.

“[A] Special investigating team would be set up in each district to probe the killings and injuries and to ascertain if excessive force was used to deal with protesters,” Mufti said. She rejected a demand for a judicial probe into the killings.

But relatives of Shabir Ahmad Mangoo, 30, a teacher from south Kashmir’s Pulwama district who was killed in August, said they had no faith in a government investigation.

“This very government gave a free hand to security forces to target unarmed civilians. And now it’s saying it will investigate excessive force that itself ordered security forces to use. You can imagine what a sham this probe is going to be,” Mangoo’s brother, Aijaz Ahmad told BenarNews.

“Such probes are ordered only to buy time and shield the guilty. How can we expect action against the culprits unless the probe is conducted by an independent panel?” he said, while rejecting the government’s cash offer.

The government assured that it would not spare any security personnel found guilty of using excessive force.

“We will conduct a thorough probe, and anyone found guilty of using brute and unwarranted force would be dealt with sternly under the law. Our government is committed to safeguarding human rights at all costs,” Abdul Haq Khan, J&K’s Law and Justice Minister, told BenarNews.

Yet this assurance means little to Abdul Rashid Dentoo, a north Kashmir resident who lost his 17-year-old son, Bilal Ahmad, in “unprovoked police firing” in September.

“He was walking to a shop to buy some household items, when he was shot dead … barely 100 meters from our house. The police told us that he was hurling petrol bombs. He did no such thing. And now this sadistic government wants me to accept a few hundred thousand rupees in exchange for my son’s life.

“I don’t want any of this stinking money. I don’t want a job from the government. I want the men who killed my son punished. But I know that will never happen,” Dentoo told BenarNews.

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